When Chance the Rapper travelled to West Africa earlier this year with fellow Chicago hip-hop artist Vic Mensa, he assumed it would be just another vacation.
Instead, the Grammy winner developed a deeper bond with Mensa’s father’s family in Ghana and other Ghanaians. He visited Ghana’s beautiful ocean coastline and waterfalls, immersed himself in the country’s musical culture and art scene, and learned more about the country’s rich history as the first Sub-Saharan African country to be free of colonialism.
After a few more trips to Ghana, Chance decided to organise a free concert series and visual arts exhibition so that others could enjoy the country’s vibrant culture as much as he did. Chance and Mensa took eight Chicago students to Ghana over the summer to learn more about Africa.
“I felt so free in Ghana… and I want others to feel the same way,” said Chance, who will co-host the first Black Line Star festival in Accra, Ghana, in 2023 with Mensa. The festival will include events, panel discussions, and a free concert on Jan. 6 featuring Chance, Mensa, Erykah Badu, T-Pain, Jeremih, Sarkodie, Tobe Nwigwe, Asakaa Boys, and M.anifest.
The event will take place in Accra’s Black Star Square, a memorial to Ghanaians’ political freedom won in 1957. The name of the festival was inspired by civil rights leader Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line, which was founded in 1919 and operated by Black people to connect global shipping and tourism opportunities between America, the Caribbean, and Africa.
Chance was inspired by Garvey for his music video “YAH Know,” which featured King Promise, and his upcoming album “Star Line Gallery,” which is set to be released next year. He’s already released a few new music videos, including “Child of God,” “A Bar About a Bar,” and “The Highs & Lows” with Joey Bada$$, that he refers to as “album art” to highlight popular African artists.
Obtaining commitments from major music artists to travel and perform in West Africa was difficult at first. With few sponsors, the free concert was mostly funded out of pocket.
However, Chance’s team discovered a way to make the trip more affordable for travellers by partnering with United Airlines, which is offering discounted fares to Ghana for the next year.
It has taken a lot of effort to organise the event in such a short period of time, but Chance believes that this festival will be successful for the next 50 years. He hopes to host the festival in other countries in the future, such as Jamaica and Haiti.
But, for the time being, Chance’s focus has been on attracting more people to Ghana, where he sees his family settling after his daughters finish college.
“I wish I could live there right now,” the rapper, who has spent his entire life in Chicago, said. “I want people to see the similarities and convergences in all of these Black lives.”